The Fourth of July Has Come and Gone

I must start this post with a final statement or two regarding the grizzly bear I discussed in my last two posts. I received a lot of feedback regarding the cause of the bear’s wounds.  The truth is that I don’t know how or exactly when the bear was injured.  I speculated that his wounds occurred prior to entering the den last fall given his massive weight loss.  I felt somewhat safe in making that assumption.  Beyond that, I cannot speculate any further as having not personally viewed the wounds I cannot make an intelligent guess as to cause.  Unfortunately, my conversation with the bear management personnel didn’t go into enough depth to get an educated opinion from them as to cause.  So, in my humble opinion the exact cause of death will have to remain one of those unsolved mysteries of a death in Yellowstone.

So, let’s move on to the healthy living critters who keep us so interested in driving around the park, or just sitting at our campsite and paying attention to what goes by.

Several days ago while relaxing at home our fellow camp hosts who were on duty at the time alerted us to the fact that there were two black bears on the entrance road to the campground.  Connie and I packed the cameras in the car and took off to see who was visiting.

 You may recognize this female black bear who does her best to convince visitors that she is a grizzly.  We are nearly positive she is the mother of the two cubs we spent so much time chasing around last summer.  She certainly acts the same and her snout has the same markings as far as I can tell.

I got this picture from inside the car with a very long lens.  I wouldn’t want anyone to think I put myself in any danger to get a picture.

She is truly one of the most beautiful bears we have observed in all our time in the park.  On this day she was chomping off the tops of dandelions.  She was just browsing through the field snatching at them left and right.  At one point she got into a big patch and just sat down and ate as many as she could reach without having to walk.

 When we first arrived there were a couple of bear management personnel on scene.  They deduced that this other black bear who was sort of shadowing the other bear was her new suitor.  They may have been correct, because when the female was last seen she was no longer being shadowed by the black fellow.  She is most likely now pregnant. We will have to wait until next spring to know for sure.

 Just the other day I was sitting out on our patio enjoying the sunshine and our great view while trying to catch up on some reading when we were visited by this Yellow-bellied Marmot.  This seemed to us to be a rather strange sighting as neither of us could remember seeing one in the campground before.  Of course we are rarely up and around as early as we were this particular day.  Anyway, he skirted around our site doing whatever it is that marmots do while on the prowl.

 I wonder if he thought he was hidden behind the tree.

 Shortly after the marmot departed this Uinta Ground Squirrel came by to see what was going on. Uinta Ground Squirrels are a dime a dozen in the park and especially at Indian Creek Campground. Since I already had the camera out I couldn’t resist grabbing a few shots of this guy, after all, look how cute he is.

On July Fifth we took a drive around the east side of the park with our friends Rick and Donna Dumar.  I wanted to get some wildflower photos.  Unfortunately there was enough of a breeze to prevent too many really sharp images.  These are Silky Phacelia.  In the shot below you can see the yellow ended anthers.  This a pretty complex plant and very beautiful.

 The hills were also decorated with hundreds of Sticky Geraniums (right).  We also saw several wild roses that somehow managed to escape photography.  I had gotten out of the car to verify that they were roses.  I didn’t really need to work to hard on the identification as they smelled like roses. Sorry there are no photos.

In the higher elevations we saw hundreds of these light blue flowers. Unfortunately, I cannot remember the name.  Each of the blossoms is no larger than a dime.

The highlight of the drive was found just north of Grizzly Overlook in the Hayden Valley.  Up on a ridge on the west side of the road was a rather large and healthy grizzly bear doing his thing looking for food.  The traffic was just crawling along with occasional full stops that gave me several opportunities to get some photos.  Rick was keeping an eye on the road so that as soon as the vehicle in front of us moved I could also move thereby avoiding any trouble with rangers.

Take a look at the claws on this fellow’s front paw.  I cannot imagine the damage a swat with that tool would do to soft tissue such as someone’s face.  They are amazing and powerful animals.  We so do love watching them making a living in the wild like this.

Yesterday, was a quiet day around camp with a late afternoon drive to see a few places we usually just drive by.  The weather was just wonderful and being as it was pretty warm we didn’t feel too adventurous.  However, as we passed through Swan Lake Flats we decided we should stop and see what there was to see.  After about 15 minutes of scanning the lake and surrounding hills we were about to determine there was nothing of note going on.  I got distracted by a pair of ravens who were out trying to make a living while Connie was making her way back to the car.  About that time an interpretive ranger showed up and started scanning the horizon.  Soon enough he spotted a cow elk and a grizzly bear.  I told Connie to get out of the car as I, too, could now see the elk.  Soon enough I was on the bear as well.  It seemed odd that the elk was so near the bear, probably withing 20 yards or so.  Eventually the bear was in the sagebrush up to his shoulders and difficult to see, so I got our scope out of the car and set it up on him.  The cow elk eventually roamed off to the woods to the north, but the bear stayed in the brush for a long time.

Over the next thirty to forty minutes we entertained tens of visitors who wanted to know what we were looking at.  Once learning it was a grizzly bear the interest level spiked.  Since the critter was really a long way off, if you didn’t know exactly where it was it was nearly impossible to find with simple binoculars.  So, we let many visitors look through our scope to see what could possibly be their only grizzly siting of the visit.  It was a lot of fun and I believe we performed a good service as there could not have been a safer vantage point than this.

Finally, the bear got up from where he had been lying and Connie was able to see that he had been pulling flesh off an elk calf.  Finally, we all understood why the cow elk was so reluctant to get away from the bear.  The bear had probably killed the calf earlier and the cow elk in trying to save her calf had run the bear off, but it was too late.  When we first saw the bear and cow, they were returning to the area where the calf’s life had ended.

As tragic as this is, that is life in the wild.  It is the process that goes on all day everyday and it is what makes this place so very special.

What will the rest of July bring?  You will have to wait and see.


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